I’m sure most of you have experienced the moments when your head goes blank just as the last few words trickle out of the conversation, and you stand there in an awkward silence that makes you feel like you just want to disappear. You put pressure on yourself to think of something smart, to tell an interesting story, or to reference something relevant, and you come up with absolutely nothing. Zero, zip, zilch, nada!
So, today you’re going to learn how to keep a conversation going in English with a few simple tips from me. You can also watch the videos about the same topic from Howcast and English Tonight at the end of this article.
Here are a few tips to keep a conversation going:
1. Ask open-ended questions
The best way to show that you want to start a longer conversation is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions have to be answered with more than one word and allow the other person to talk longer.
• What do you think about ___?
• Have you heard about ___? If they answer “Yes”: What do you think?
• What do you like about ___?
These are questions which require more than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, and offer the possibility of much richer answers. Question like “What do you think of the movie?” instead of “Do you like the movie?” These kinds of questions encourage people to talk and they can be a life saver in stalling conversations.
2. Follow with another question
Follow a prior question with another question or comment to continue the conversation.
• What do you mean?
• Why did that happen? Or: Why do you think so?
• How did you do it? Or: How was it?
• Interesting! Tell me more.
• What happened next?
• What did you like/not like about it?
3. Show interest
You can use one of these phrases to show interest in what the other person is saying and to let the person know you are listening as he or she speaks.
• Oh, wow!
• That’s interesting / crazy / funny / weird.
• That sounds fun / cool / interesting.
• No way!
• Right. (This means “I agree/acknowledge what you are saying”)
4. Practice, practice, and more practice!
Talk to people around you, talk to people online, talk to people standing next to you in line. Just talk to anyone you can. The more you talk to people the more natural it will become and eventually you’ll become a complete chatterbox and talk to anyone and everyone.
My advice is to start small. Ask them a question about their day, ask them about the football match last night, ask them about whatever you’re lining up for. Just get a conversation started and take it from there. Even if it’s a short conversation you’d be amazed at how easily it all becomes.